Visions of Readicide

Just Ask the Students

I am teaching a graduate course this summer on reading with a focus on reader-response theory.  At its most basic, reader-response theory focuses on how readers respond to texts, and the reasons behind those responses.  Ultimately, the goal of reader-response theory is to understand where readers’ responses come from and how that information can help teachers assist readers in becoming better readers.

The first reading assignment, Chapter 1 in Gallagher’s Readicide, reminded me of two kinds of images I’ve collected from my students over the years when I asked them to draw pictures of what happens when they read. 

The first kind of image is the embattled or tortured reader.  These are drawings that depict readers being tortured by reading or destroying books.

books on fire

Torture Drawing

The second kind of image is the happy/sad reader.  These are drawings that depict readers who know the difference between reading on their own an reading in school.

happy sad reader

In this first chapter of Readicide, Gallagher offers evidence from a number of sources to support his claim that schools are failing to teach students to become lifelong readers (and thus effective citizens) because they promote shallow teaching and a continued underclass of learners through multiple-choice test preparation.  But so far, he hasn’t offered any evidence from students’ themselves, evidence clearly available in drawings like these.